The Shanghai rumble has reached the playoff stage, purging the weak and the underperforming big-name sides after a grueling Swiss group stage. How are the rest of the contenders shaping up? Here’s our preview of the round of eight – the battle of the young AWPers, mysterious mid-tier sides, two rising forces and the revenge of s1mple.

NRG versus Vitality (04:00 UTC)

It’s a testament to the steady improvement of both teams that it’s not exactly a surprise to see them in the playoff stage of a top-tier international LAN event. That said, NBK himself gone on record saying they’re “just a top ten team” off the back of their defeat to an inconsistent Fnatic, and it’s an interesting data point that three of the same teams in the group stages at StarSeries. Both NRG and Vitality lost to Fnatic, they both dispatched BIG with ease but the Frenchmen faltered against North. This one’s likely going to come down to the mouth-watering clash between the two young AWPers, and if you subscribe to the theory that Vitality is in bigger need of Zywoo’s carry potential than NRG is of Cerq’s, you’ll be surprised to find that the odds actually favor NBK and co. – 2.00 for NRG’s qualification seems like a decent punt to make.

Fnatic versus North (07:00 UTC)

Good luck to anyone trying to figure out how good these teams actually are right now: extreme inconsistency and unacceptable losses are peppered with impressive upset wins, and it’s no wonder the odds are almost identical. On form, Fnatic’s 3-0 record looks quite a lot better than North’s 3-2 showing, though it’s impressive that they managed to make it back from the 0-2 bracket despite facing both MiBR and FaZe Clan. The Swedes have an appropriately miniscule edge odds-wise (1.80 to 1.94).

starseries season 7 quarterfinals

Renegades versus NiP (10:00 UTC)

If not for ENCE’s heroics, the revitalization of “the boys” would be the big story of CS:GO right now. Not only have they managed to finish in the top eight at a major for the first time in their history, they were also the only team to take a map off of Astralis at the event off the back of an incredible comeback on Mirage. Their victory over MiBR was well-deserved revenge after what seemed like nerves on the Katowice stage, signifying further improvement. They’ve won eight out of their last ten games! Meanwhile, NiP are also creeping up the rankings but a deeper examination seems to indicate it has more to do with strong individual performances and a relative weakness of the rest of the field than anything else – meaning it would take f0rest going nuclear once more for the Ninjas to get past the Renegades (the Ninjas are 2.32 to qualify).

Natus Vincere versus ENCE (Saturday 04:00 UTC)

Don’t trust the hype on this one: Na’Vi were “only” a s1mple clutch away from ending the Finns’ Cinderella run in the semis at Katowice, they will be hyper-motivated for revenge and now have a lot more demos to study. The true test of the Finns will be how they can keep up with the big boys going forward now that they’re definitely taken seriously, and it feels like another set of strong individual performances will be needed from them if they want a chance to counteract s1mple’s class. The odds are very close but Na’Vi still feel like a steal at 1.77 for this one.